Expert Opinion: Recruiting Edition

Whitney Blaine, Kevin Carden and Dan Greenspan of SCPlaybook look at the Trojans' positions of need for next year and what players USC wants but haven't received commitments from yet.

---Most Important Position to Recruit---

Whitney Blaine, USC Beat Writer and Reporter

-Offensive Linemen

The first position that is essential for the Trojans to recruit is offensive linemen, no doubt. But specifically, the position of tackle will be crucial in the class of 2012.

Current left tackle Matt Kalil will most likely declare for next year's draft and the right side is upheld by sophomore Kevin Graf who has not performed up to expectations and recently seen some competition at the spot with freshman Aundrey Walker.

At that left spot there is little depth after Kalil, and Walker has also spent time rotating at guard so even his position at tackle is uncertain, which leaves a gaping hole at the left and only a spot filled on the right by Graf, who will be a junior next year.

This is the year of offensive lineman, and USC should be able to get in on the action with a couple of four and five star recruits.

-Safety

The next position which presents itself as a big concern for the Trojans' future is at safety. T.J. McDonald is already off to a great personal start his season (despite the rest of the defense not faring so well), and will most likely declare for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Even if he doesn't, he would be entering his senior year in 2012. Safety Marshall Jones is a senior and both Drew McAllister and Jawanza Starling are juniors. While Demetrius Wright is only a sophomore, he will be entering his junior year in 2012 which leaves a decent age gap at the position.

Defensive back Patrick Hall will likely have made a full recovery from knee surgery next fall but there's no guarantee he'll be back to full strength.

More than years, though, is height. McDonald, far and above the best safety at USC right now, is listed at 6-3, 205. The next tallest? A few players listed at 6-1, under 200 pounds. Trojan prospect Shaquille Thompson from Grant Union High is 6-2, 210.

So what's a few inches? Well when you're trying to intercept a pass intended for a receiver who's three yards ahead of you, those few extra inches can do wonders.

The safeties and cornerbacks need to do better next year, but there is some solid depth with cornerbacks like junior college transfer Isiah Wiley, freshman Ryan Henderson who looks to be a redshirt candidate for 2011 and freshman Anthony Brown who used his redshirt year last season. Expected to redshirt this season, according to head coach Lane Kiffin, senior T.J. Bryant should also have another year here back in the system.

Kevin Carden, SCPlaybook.com Publisher and West Coast Recruiting Analyst

-Offensive Line

The USC Trojans have a real need for offensive linemen in the 2012 class, and fortunately, this is the year of the big men on the West Coast.

Lane Kiffin already has commitments from Arik Armstead, Max Tuerk and Chad Wheeler, with several other top prospects including Kyle Murphy, Ronnie Stanley, Jordan Simmons and Zach Banner still considering the Men of Troy.

Ideally, USC would bring in at least two more elite level offensive linemen like Kyle Murphy and Jordan Simmons and call it a class.

Dan Greenspan, USC Beat Writer and Reporter

-Linebackers

Unless and until the USC linebackers start producing like the dynamic group of Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, and Rey Maualuga again, you can never have enough players there.

Don't get me wrong, redshirt freshmen outside linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard have outperformed expectations in their first starts. Bailey leads the team in tackles with 40, Pullard is second.

But their lack of takeaways is troubling. Given how the offense is clicking on all cylinders, an extra possession or two per game can make all the difference against upcoming quality opponents like Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon.

With verbal commitments from Scott Starr of Norco (Calif.) and Jabari Ruffin of Downey (Calif.), the Trojans are getting two bigger options. Both Starr and Ruffin weigh in at 230 pounds, already heavier than Bailey and Pullard.

-Tight End

Elsewhere, with the impending scholarship reductions, it wouldn't hurt to use former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's playbook by loading up on tight ends, knowing they can always be transitioned to the offensive or defensive lines.

Rocklin (Calif.) Whitney product Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick could do just that since USC already has an impressive group of young contributors at tight end in Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and the injured sophomore Christian Thomas.

---Most Desired (But Not Committed) Recruit---

Whitney Blaine, USC Beat Writer and Reporter

-Kyle Murphy, offensive tackle, San Clemente High School (San Clemente, Calif.)

If you replaced Murphy with current left tackle Matt Kalil (6-7, 295) on the Trojans' offensive line, one might not notice at first glance. The same listed height, Kalil has the obvious advantage in terms of game experience, knowledge and weight (about 30 pounds of an advantage).

But Murphy has the frame to get bigger, about 290-300 big, according to Scout's National Recruiting Analyst Brandon Huffman. And while Murphy's size is clearly a 'big' bonus for any offensive line, his footwork and confidence are must-haves for top schools.

He's currently being recruited hard by USC, Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Florida. He has taken an official to Oregon and has one planned for Florida in November.

He lists the proximity to home, strong academics and people at the school as major factors in his decision, although he's not sure when that decision will be made. A player like Murphy opposite a player like Walker on both ends could be a lethal combination for the Trojans in the future.

-Jordan Simmons, offensive guard, Crespi Carmelite High School (Encino, Calif.)

Another offensive lineman (hey, it's the year for them, after all) the Trojans would be lucky to get is Simmons. I sat sat down with Simmons in Julyat the Elite 11 event in Malibu, Calif. where his Crespi teammates were catching passes from some of the camp's quarterbacks.

Simmons sat watching, but funny enough, a lot of people were watching him. His size (6-5, 340) is intimidating, sure, but it's obvious he's years ahead of himself when you look at the way he carries himself. Composed, self-assured, confident: attributes any offensive line coach wants in his player.

A Scout four-star recruit, Simmons is debating between a number of schools across the country, but told me back in July that USC and Oregon looked the best. It's quite a quick drive from Encino, Calif. if the proximity to home was any factor, but Simmons said it wasn't.

For another curveball, Simmons said he really enjoys the Ducks' uniforms. While Ed Orgeron and James Cregg will have to wait until the Army All-American Bowl for Simmons to announce his decision, USC would be quite fortunate to have Simmons don cardinal and gold.

Simmons has spoken regularly with USC freshman guard Marcus Martin, who could set an example for Simmons in his recruiting process. Martin was the first guard to start as a freshman since 2004 and that early playing opportunity might be appealing to the athletic Simmons, who also plays basketball.

Trojan fans might salivate at the thought of a superstar offensive line beginning on the left with Murphy, Martin, Cyrus Hobbi, Jordan Simmons and Aundrey Walker on the right. Just a few more months until they find out if this dream can become a reality.

Kevin Carden, SCPlaybook.com Publisher and West Coast Recruiting Analyst

Kyle Murphy, offensive tackle, San Clemente High School (San Clemente, Calif.)

The big man from San Clemente has everything that you look for in an offensive tackle: great size, strength and footwork. In a year filled with an abundance of promising offensive line recruits, Murphy and Joshua Garnett are the two best that I have seen in person. Murphy was nearly unbeatable during one-on-one drills this off-season and has carried his tremendous play into his senior season. Adding Kyle Murphy and Max Tuerk to a young group that already includes Aundrey Walker, Marcus Martin and Cyrus Hobbi would mean big things for the future of USC football.

Nelson Agholor, safety, Berkeley Preparatory School (Tampa, Fla.)

After watching Agholor make play after play at The Opening this off-season, it was easy to see why college coaches across the country want to get him on campus. Like Seymour, Agholor is a player that could play multiple positions in college, but I would throw him at safety to start and let him compete for the starting spot. Agholor could also contribute on special teams as a kick and punt returner. And if Lane Kiffin really wants to cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators, just line him up alongside Robert Woods and Marqise Lee at wide receiver.

Kevon Seymour, cornerback, Muir High School (Pasadena, Calif.)

Four-star defensive back Kevon Seymour from Muir High School is one of the top overall athletes on the West Coast, and has the ability to play cornerback or safety at the next level. He could add some needed size at the cornerback spot or be a ball hawk at safety. As we have seen this season, the secondary remains a major concern and securing the commitment of a smooth, versatile athlete like Seymour would be a helpful addition.

Dan Greenspan, USC Beat Writer and Reporter

Pete Carroll having a collection of defensive standouts was a given, like the sun rising in the East. But that magic hasn't carried over to Monte Kiffin's stewardship of the defense.

In 13 games last season, USC managed just 26 takeaways and are on a worse pace this year with three interceptions and two fumbles in five games. The days of ball hawks like Lofa Tatupu in the back seven are clearly long gone.

There are plenty of solid players among the linebackers and defensive backs, but no one capable of consistently generating game-changing plays.

The Trojans need takeaways and Florida safety Nelson Agholor and Pasadena (Calif.) Muir corner Kevon Seymour look like recruits that could create them.

-Nelson Agholor, safety, Berkeley Preparatory School (Tampa, Fla.)

Agholor has 12 interceptions in three years and dominated on the camp circuit this summer. While he could play several positions in college, his speed and instincts make him a natural as a safety. With T.J. McDonald one of the few USC players consistently creating takeaways, Agholor would be the perfect successor.

-Kevon Seymour, cornerback, Muir High School (Pasadena, Calif.)

Seymour has offers from all the top West Coast schools, plus Florida and Nebraska, and his athleticism is unquestioned after playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back as a junior. At 6-foot even, he would also offer some size the current crop of corners like Nickell Robey, Anthony Brown and Ryan Henderson lack.


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